48 Hours made Eddie Murphy a star which is presumably the main reason why Universal thought that Walter Hill, of all people, would be an appropriate choice to direct Richard Pryor in this umpteenth version of the famous classic farce. Hill himself admits the film was an "aberration in the career line", and I'm not sure why he made it - maybe he wanted to try something completely different after the personal project of Streets of Fire.
It starts off as a "Walter Hill" film at least - there's a Ry Cooder music score, Pryor is a baseball player and participates in a well-shot bar-room brawl within the first ten minutes. Then things move into broader, more typical 80s comedy territory, with Hume Cronyn as Pryor's grandfather leaving a message from beyond the grave, villainous lawyers in three piece suits, a wacky support cast (including John Candy as Pryor's best friend), and an underdeveloped, sexless love interest.
It's not terribly funny. I remember thinking this was okay as a kid but it hasn't aged well. Maybe the central concept is flawed (I haven't seen other versions) - maybe the new script writers didn't come up with many fresh variations. I mean, the gimmick is outlandish, right - the fun comes from seeing ways Brewster can waste money. Here he hires a lot of advisers, a hotel room, gets an interior designer to change a room lots of times, mails some precious stamps, pays for his baseball team to play the Yankees, and runs for mayor. That's all... alright. I guess I was looking for more "oh my goodness" or "oh yeah that's real wish fulfillment" moments.
The movie is actually more effective in its serious moments - when Pryor realises he just doesn't make the cut as a baseball player, the last few moments where all his old friends desert him. I wish they'd developed Pryor's love story more and fleshed out (if you forgive the pun) John Candy's part. Rick Moranis pops up in a small role and Pat Hingle does wonders with the part of a kindly old lawyer who wants to help Brewster.